Lead Serve Love: Inspiration for Leaders

May 10th, 2011
Lead Serve Love: 100 Three-Word Ways to Be Like Jesus (Thomas Nelson, 2011)

In John 13:1-17, we read of Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world, kneeling down on the very last night of his life to wash the dust from the feet of his disciples. What does this story tell us about the greatest leader the world has ever known?

In the first verse, John writes, “…he (Jesus) now showed them the full extent of his love.” This tells us at the root of Jesus’ gesture was an act of love. He deeply loved the men who helped him to make the Good News known and he wasn’t the least bit reluctant to demonstrate that love.

Foot washing was task a servant would have been required to do, and it certainly would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus' feet. But it was the Messiah who condescended himself to perform the duty of a servant.

After he finished washing their feet, Jesus returned to his place at the table. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher,” he said, “have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Jesus did not simply tell the disciples what he expected of them, he used himself as an example of what he expected.

Taking these points together, the demonstration of love, serving others, and being an example for others to follow, we arrive at the profound lesson Jesus taught in his act of foot washing. His lesson was that the love of God is revealed through the unselfish serving of one another with no trace of pride or position. We can take from this lesson that even though there are positions of leadership within the family, church, workplace, and community, the exercise of true leadership is to follow Jesus’ model of servanthood.

Jesus charges us to take up his mission in our generation to bring glory to God so that his kingdom may continue to come through the work of his people. This means putting into action what Jesus has commissioned us to do, and that is to make the Gospel known to all people by demonstrating the love of God through our words, deeds and motives. We should do this as every opportunity arises, even if such opportunities arise when servanthood conduct is counterintuitive, as when interacting with someone who expects you to be operating from a position of authority.

For many leaders, this posture can be rather challenging. Indeed, living like Jesus in any capacity presents challenges, not the least of which is visualizing just what Jesus would have us do in every circumstance in relation to others. Lead Serve Love: 100 Three-Word Ways to Be Like Jesus was written expressly to offer concise, actionable statements about how to be more like Jesus.

Let’s look at a few "threeologies," rephrased here slightly to focus specifically on servant leadership.

Love your neighbor.

You may commit acts of charity and kindness, but unless your acts are motivated by love, your good deeds mean nothing in the eyes of the Lord. By loving your neighbor, and we know that means everyone, you continue Christ’s work of spreading the hope of salvation and everlasting life. Be a disciple as well as a leader; love others so well that there will be mutual regard and affection, all for God’s greater glory.

I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.

John 13:34–35

Swallow your pride.

Although he was from most high, Jesus spent time with the lowest of the low, showing that his mercy and grace are for all, even kneeling down to wash dirty feet. Let there be harmony and a spirit of agreement wherever you go, for the way to secure grace more abundantly is to be humble before the Lord. Let not your position set you apart, just as Jesus is not apart from you.

When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves.

Philippians 2:3

Serve each other.

Christ demonstrated his love by serving others, even offering his life to save yours. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven consists in doing rather than in being and in doing for others rather than for yourself. Great leadership rises out of service. Only those who are the servants of mankind are truly great. Serve others not only to honor Christ but also to continue his work of spreading the Word.

Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave.

Matthew 20:26–27

Lead by example.

The business of the church is not only to save but also to enlighten. Christ is the light, and his disciples must also be light. To be a leader is to have a unique opportunity to be an example of Jesus and show his goodness and mercy to those accountable to you. Always reveal Christ by your words and deeds. Be a beacon; shine like stars so that others can see what you do for your Lord.

People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.

1 Peter 2:12

Christ gave us an excellent, lasting example of servant leadership. It is our duty to follow that example and render the same kind of service to fellow Christians, even the non-believers, anywhere and everywhere we might find ourselves. He who would be a great leader must be always ready to serve others in a genuine spirit of humility and sacrifice. Lead in this way, and others will surely follow.


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